In Canadian Politics, Human Rights, Media Critique

Earlier this year, the U.S., British and Canadian governments announced that they were “deeply concerned” about “foreign information manipulation”.

According to the CBC:

Major world powers are increasingly worried about the spread of misinformation through social media platforms that are harder to contain — especially in a year where countries making up over 60 per cent of global economic output, including the U.S., Britain and India, are due to hold elections.

The Anglo-American triumvirate has endorsed, we were told, “a framework to counter the threat”. The framework was released in mid-January by the U.S. State Department – that incorruptible bastion of truth-telling.

Days after we learned of the U.S. government’s framework, the Trudeau government unveiled its long-awaited ‘online harms’ legislation, or Bill C-63.

Predictably, Canada’s Prime Minister drew attention to provisions of the bill that are designed to protect children from being subjected to “hatred, to violence, to being bullied and seeing and being affected by terrible things online.”

The problem with Bill C-63, however, is not its protection of children. Protection of children from online harm is a laudable goal, but this legislation goes far beyond that objective.

It is now clear that, in seeking to sell this anti-democratic legislation to the public, the government’s strategy is to focus the public’s attention on the protection of children while distracting us from the bill’s repressive features.

Free speech: the lifeblood of democracy

Democracy is founded on the premise that ordinary citizens can be trusted to discern truth from falsehood, and that the best way to ensure the promotion of the truth is to foster free and unfettered debate among the citizenry.

That is the very basis upon which Canada’s judicial system is founded. In our ‘adversarial’ system of justice, the trier of fact and law (the judge and jury) assume a passive role while the litigants decide what evidence to proffer and what arguments to advance. From this contest of ideas, the truth is expected to emerge, and justice to prevail.

For democracy to thrive, limitations on our freedom of expression should be few in number, and must impinge upon our freedom of expression to the minimal possible degree.

Robust freedom of expression is particularly vital in a media ecosystem dominated by large, for-profit corporations. Inevitably, these media organizations prioritize the enrichment of their owners over the promotion of the public good.

Social media provide us with an indispensable means to bypass the filters that for-profit media impose upon the public discourse. That’s precisely why governments and the elites that control them have become increasingly hostile to open discourse on social media.

Of course, social media also offer pathways for the dissemination of disinformation. The best way to counter disinformation, however, is with evidence and logic.

Rather than counter what it regards as ‘disinformation’ by means of evidence and logic, Canada’s government is resorting to a complex scheme of aggressive, backdoor censorship. The government doesn’t even have the decency to call this scheme ‘censorship’: nowhere in Bill C-63 do the words ‘censor’ or ‘censorship’ appear.

Executive Summary: Analysis of the Online Harms Legislation

Bill C-63 is designed to promote aggressive censorship of online content by social media services.

The Bill creates a “Digital Safety Commission”. Its members will be unelected, government appointees who will be given sweeping powers to compel social media services to censor their users.

The Bill’s core concept is “harmful content”.

Under the proposed legislation, “harmful content” consists of several types of defined content, including “content that foments hatred”, “content that incites violence” and “content that incites violent extremism or terrorism”.

The Bill defines these three concepts broadly and ambiguously. This is likely by design. The concepts are broad enough and ambiguous enough to capture peaceful civil disobedience, anti-Zionism, and lawful, armed resistance to brutal oppression.

When combined with the Bill’s potentially ruinous monetary penalties, the proposed legislation, if adopted, will incentivize social media providers to suppress speech that ought to be permitted in a free and democratic society.

Overview of the Online Harms Legislation

“Harmful Content”

The key concept in this legislation is the concept of “harmful content”.

Section 2 of Bill C-63 defines “harmful content” as:

(a) intimate content communicated without consent;

(b) content that sexually victimizes a child or revictimizes a survivor;

(c) content that induces a child to harm themselves;

(d) content used to bully a child;

(e) content that foments hatred;

(f) content that incites violence; and

(g) content that incites violent extremism or terrorism.‍

I take no issue with clauses (a) to (d) of this definition. Rather, my concerns arise from clauses (e), (f) and (g).

Section 2 of Bill C-63 defines “content that foments hatred” as:

content that expresses detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination, within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and that, given the context in which it is communicated, is likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of such a prohibited ground.‍

Section 2 defines “content that incites violence” as:

content that actively encourages a person to commit — or that actively threatens the commission of — an act of physical violence against a person or an act that causes property damage, and that, given the context in which it is communicated, could cause a person to commit an act that could cause

(a) serious bodily harm to a person;
(b) a person’s life to be endangered; or
(c) serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system.‍

Finally, section 2 defines “content that incites violent extremism or terrorism” as:

content that actively encourages a person to commit — or that actively threatens the commission of — for a political, religious or ideological purpose, an act of physical violence against a person or an act that causes property damage, with the intention of intimidating or denouncing the public or any section of the public or of compelling a person, government or domestic or international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act, and that, given the context in which it is communicated, could cause a person to commit an act that could cause

(a) serious bodily harm to a person;
(b) a person’s life to be endangered; or
(c) a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any section of the public.‍

I shall return to these definitions below, in my analysis of the legislation’s flaws.

The Digital Safety Commission of Canada

Bill C-63 creates the “Digital Safety Commission of Canada”, referred to in the Bill as the “Commission”.

Sections 12 and 13 provide that the Commission shall consist of three to five full-time members to be appointed by the Governor in Council, to hold office during good behaviour. Commission members are to hold office for renewable terms of not more than five years, but may be removed for cause.

Effectively, this means that whatever government happens to be in power at any particular time will determine the composition of the Commission.

Part 7 of Bill C-63 confers sweeping powers of administration and enforcement upon the Commission.

Section 86 provides that, to ensure compliance with the Act by a social media service (“operator”), the Commission may: (a) summon and enforce the appearance of persons before the Commission and compel them to give oral or written evidence on oath and to produce any documents or other things that the Commission considers necessary, in the same manner and to the same extent as a superior court of record; (b) administer oaths; (c) receive and accept any evidence or other information, whether on oath, by affidavit or otherwise, that the Commission sees fit, whether or not it would be admissible in a court of law; and (d) decide any procedural or evidentiary question.

Under section 87, the Commission is not bound by any legal or technical rules of evidence.

Sections 88 and 89 provide that the Commission may hold a hearing  in connection with a complaint made under subsection 81(1) of the Act, or “any other matter relating to an operator’s compliance with this Act.” The hearing does not have to be public: the Commission may decide that a hearing is to be held in private, in whole or in part, if the Commission considers that “it would be in the public interest”, or for other reasons specified by the legislation.

Under section 90, the Commission may designate inspectors for the purposes of verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance with the Act. Section 91 provides that such an inspector “may, for a purpose related to verifying compliance or preventing non-compliance with this Act, enter any place in which they have reasonable grounds to believe that there is any document, information or other thing relevant to that purpose.”

Finally, section 94 provides that, if the Commission has “reasonable grounds to believe that an operator is contravening or has contravened this Act”, it may make an order requiring the operator to take, or refrain from taking, any measure to ensure compliance with the Act.

The core obligations that Bill C-63 imposes on social media services

Bill C-63 imposes certain core obligations on social media services, or “operators”. They are found in sections 54 to 72.

Under section 54, an operator has a duty to “act responsibly in respect of a regulated service that it operates by complying with sections 55 to 63 and with orders made by the Commission under subsection 74(1).”

Under section 55, the operator of a regulated service “must implement measures that are adequate to mitigate the risk that users of the service will be exposed to harmful content on the service.”

In determining whether the measures implemented by the operator are adequate to mitigate the risk that users of the regulated service will be exposed to harmful content on the service, the Commission must take into account various factors, including (a) the effectiveness of the measures in mitigating the risk; (b) the size of the service; (c) the technical and financial capacity of the operator; and (d) whether the measures are designed or implemented in a manner that is discriminatory on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Subsection (3) of section 55 provides that subsection (1) “does not require the operator to implement measures that unreasonably or disproportionately limit users’ expression on the regulated service.” The plain implication of this provision, however, is that the operator may implement measures that limit expression.

Under section 62, the operator of a regulated service must submit a “digital safety plan” to the Commission in respect of each regulated service that it operates.

The digital safety plan must include the following items of information, among others: (a) information respecting the manner in which the operator complies with sections 55 and 56; (e) information respecting the resources that the operator allocates in order to comply with sections 55 to 61 and 65; (f) information respecting the volume and type of harmful content that was accessible on the service; and (h) information respecting the content, other than harmful content, that was moderated by the operator and that the operator had reasonable grounds to believe posed a risk of significant psychological or physical harm.

The operator must make its digital safety plan publicly available in an accessible and easy-to-read format.

Penalties for non-compliance under Bill C-63

Under Bill C-63, the penalties for non-compliance are Draconian.

Section 96 provides that an operator is liable to an administrative monetary penalty in the following circumstances, among others: (a) the operator contravenes a provision of the Act or the regulations; (b) the operator contravenes an order of the Commission; or (c) the operator contravenes a requirement imposed by an inspector under section 93.

Importantly, section 97 provides that “a violation that is continued on more than one day constitutes a separate violation in respect of each day on which it is continued.”

Under section 101, the maximum administrative monetary penalty for a violation of the Act is 6% of the gross global revenue of the person who committed the violation or $10 million, whichever is greater.

Bill C-63 also provides for criminal penalties.

Under section 120, a criminal penalty may apply to an operator that contravenes an order of the Commission, an undertaking that it entered into with the Commission, or a requirement imposed by the Commission under section 117 or subsection 119(2).

On conviction on indictment, the operator is subject to a fine of up to 8% of the operator’s gross global revenue or $25 million, whichever is greater.

In 2021, the annual revenue of Twitter (X) was slightly in excess of US$5 billion. This means that, had this legislation been in effect at that time, Twitter would have been subject to an administrative monetary penalty as large as US$300 million for a single, one-day violation of the legislation. If the violation continued over a period of ten days, the maximum administrative monetary penalty for Twitter would heave reached US$3 billion.

Clearly, a determination that a social media service violated the Act over a period of several weeks could bankrupt the service.

Why Bill C-63 threatens Canadians’ free speech

An exhaustive analysis of Bill C-63’s flaws would consume many pages. I’ve therefore elected to confine my analysis to those of its defects which I consider to be the most important, from a free speech perspective.

Unelected government appointees will police our speech

Under this legislation, unelected officials appointed by whatever government happens to be in power will acquire sweeping powers to regulate speech on social media services.

Because the Commission’s members will be unelected, they will not be answerable directly to those whose speech they cause operators to suppress.

No one should have any illusions about the agendas of the individuals whom the government is likely to appoint to Canada’s Digital Safety Commission. Generally, politicians appoint regulators who are ideologically aligned with those who appoint them.

Moreover, if experience has taught us anything about Canada’s political elite, it’s that the elite readily disseminates disinformation when doing so advances its self-serving agenda.

We therefore have little reason to trust appointees of the political elite to regulate our online speech.

Overly broad and ambiguous definition of “harmful content”

Content that foments hatred

As stated above, Bill C-63 defines “content that foments hatred” as “content that expresses detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination, within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act” and that “is likely” to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group of individuals on the basis of such a prohibited ground.

Section 3 of the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics and disability.

What is meant by “expresses detestation or vilification”?

During Israel’s barbaric war on Palestinians, pro-Israel politicians have falsely and incessantly accused critics of Israel’s genocidal regime of acting in a manner that is ‘hateful’ toward the Jewish people.

Last month, for example, after pro-Palestinian protests were held at synagogues in Thornhill, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec, the Prime Minister himself claimed that Palestinian solidarity protesters were acting in a ‘hateful’ manner toward Jewish Canadians. His allegation was repeated by numerous pro-Israel politicians, including Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca, Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman and Ontario MPP Laura Smith.

All these Zionist politicians casually ignored the stated and obvious reason for the protests: the synagogues in question were hosting events at which real estate agents were marketing properties in Israel, some of which are situated in the occupied West Bank. The West Bank is Palestinian territory. The Canadian government itself acknowledges that Israel’s West Bank settlements violate international law.

There’s nothing ‘hateful’ about protesting the promotion of illegal settlement activity.

Of course, there is hate speech in our society. Some of it is directed at the Jewish community. Some of it is directed at other groups who have endured racism, including Palestinians.

The question is whether the best way to deal with hate speech is to empower unelected, government-appointed bureaucrats to decide for us what is and is not hate speech.

Under this legislation, there’s a serious risk that ambiguous and manipulable concepts such as “detestation or vilification of an individual or group” will be used to censor online critics of oppressive, Western-allied governments and the lobby groups that support them.

Content that incites violence

As stated above, section 2 of Bill C-63 defines “content that incites violence” as content that “actively” encourages a person to commit an act of physical violence against a person or an act that causes property damage, and that, given the context in which it is communicated, “could cause” a person to commit an act that “could cause” serious bodily harm to a person, a person’s life to be endangered, or serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system.‍

This definition is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, what is meant by “actively”? The drafters of this legislation could have chosen the terms “explicitly” or “expressly” to qualify the verb “encourage”, but they chose not to do so.

This language leaves open the possibility that implicit encouragement of violence would be covered by the Act’s definition of “content that incites violence”. Determining whether content implicitly encourages violence requires judgment. Such judgments are likely to be influenced by the interpreter’s personal biases and subjective views about the speaker or the group to which the speaker belongs. If one believes, for example, that a speaker comes from a group that is prone to violence, one is more likely to interpret that speaker’s words as an implicit encouragement to engage in violence.

Second, whereas the definition of “content that expresses detestation or vilification” requires that the content be likely to foment detestation or vilification of an individual or group, the definition of “content that incites violence” requires only that the content “could” cause a person to commit a prohibited act.  The drafters of this legislation could have qualified the word “could” with the word “reasonably” (or a similar qualifier), but they chose not to do so. This means that any possibility of causing violence, however remote, might suffice to bring the content within the definition of “content that incites violence”. That is an extremely low bar.

Third, the definition of “content that incites violence” draws no distinction between lawful violence and unlawful violence. Since Israel launched its genocidal war on Gaza, I’ve pointed out repeatedly on social media that the Palestinian people have a right to use armed resistance against the Israeli forces that brutalize and oppress them. Under Bill C-63’s definition of “content that incites violence”, such statements might well be deemed to be “harmful content” even though international law affords to Palestinians the right of armed resistance.

Finally, Bill C-63’s definition of “content that incites violence” is broad enough to encompass conduct that is not violent at all, and that constitutes peaceful, civil disobedience. Specifically, the definition covers “serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system”. It is entirely possibly to cause “serious interference” or “serious disruption” to a service, facility or system without engaging in violence. Those who chain themselves to the entrances of factories that produce weapons, or who block major highways with their bodies, can cause serious disruption to those ‘facilities’, ‘systems’ and ‘services’, but they are not engaged in violence.

Furthermore, Bill C-63 does not stipulate which ‘services’, ‘facilities’ or ‘systems’ are “essential” for purposes of the legislation. The terms ‘services’, ‘facilities’ and ‘systems are themselves undefined in the legislation, and are broad enough to encompass any piece of infrastructure and any type of service, including electronic services.

For all of the above reasons, the Act’s definition of “content that incites violence” may well cause social media providers or the Digital Safety Commission to suppress content that causes citizens to engage in peaceful, civil disobedience for a just cause.

Content that incites violent extremism or terrorism

Like the definition of “content that incites violence”, the Act’s definition of “content that incites violent extremism or terrorism” extends to content that “could” cause a person to engage in a prohibited act. Because the drafters did not use the qualifier “likely” and did not qualify the verb “could” in any way, any possibility of causing a prohibited act, however remote, might suffice to bring the content within the definition “content that incites violent extremism or terrorism”.

Furthermore, the Act’s definition of “content that incites violent extremism or terrorism” does not distinguish between lawful violence and unlawful violence. Therefore, content that might be interpreted as ‘active encouragement’ to employ a lawful right of armed resistance to oppression could fall within the definition of “content that incites violent extremism or terrorism”, and therefore be subject to suppression by social media providers or the Digital Safety Commission.

The Act’s Draconian penalties incentivize social media providers to err on the side of censorship

As I explain above, the Act’s monetary penalties are potentially Draconian. A violation of the Act that persists over several weeks could attract a penalty that is ruinous to a social media provider – even one as large as Twitter (X) or Instagram.

Even if the risk of incurring the legislation’s maximum penalty is remote, the magnitude of that risk will incentivize social media providers to err on the side of censorship.

Furthermore, because the Act defines “harmful content” broadly and ambiguously, social media providers will encounter countless situations in which content on their platforms creates an unquantifiable risk of a catastrophic penalty.

The overarching priority of Canada’s major social media platforms is profit maximization. Accordingly, their natural tendency will be to minimize the risks to their bottom line by over-policing content. They are likely to err, systematically, on the side of censorship.

That is precisely what this censorial legislation is designed to do. The Act’s potentially massive penalties, together with its broad and ambiguous language, are crafted to induce the aggressive suppression of online speech that Canada’s elites abhor, but that ought to be permitted in a free and democratic society.

In light of these considerations, I strongly encourage all Canadians, whatever their political orientation may be, to oppose this legislation.

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Showing 21 comments
  • John Partyka

    Great summary Dimitri! Free speech has decayed so badly in Canada that most Canadian voters know little or nothing about the threat from Bill C-63, whether they watch msm regularly or ignore it altogether. Like during the invocation of the emergency act, the “average Canadian” has given up on our Parliament and politics in general. That’s because we’ve already been victimized by the worst misinformation source of all: The coalition of our government and corporate owned media. They are the enemy of free speech and they have already hindered our ability to oppose them through public discussion.

  • Denis Cooper

    I have a problem with these deffinitions and the “Want” to control them. Firstly, if the Govt. is intent on ‘protecting’ citizens from harm, what about their own policies that cause harm to others? So it is to protect the chosen ones. The ones THEY decide are good from those they decide is bad. Secondly, these govt employees who are given powers to control SPs media platforms, how quallified are they to destinguish and decide what “Hatred” means. By most Govt’s definitions these days if one does not “LIKE” something they display hatred towards it. Eg A straight person may dislike Gay behaviour and morals. It does not mean they “Hate” gay people. Look at nature. A lion will kill and devoure an antelope or any meaty animal he can overpower. Does it Hate that animal or Love and respect it? That animal is its staple diet in the food chain and I would say it LOVES it. When the Lion has eaten he is peaceful and co-exists among the same antelope. He does not kill them all because he hates them. Does he hate an elephant? No. Im sure he would eat one but its too big to kill. Also does not mean he loves them. Govt’s tend to classify HATRED if the issue fits into any class of, disagreement, non acceptance, dislike etc. People have been conditioned to, ‘If you are not with us you are against us. Neutrality has been outlawad and will soon vanish. So WHO will decide what constitute hate speech. And if I post ” I hate Brussel Sprouts”, will my post be censored? It would offen a person who loves them. Thats life, we are all unique, but not free and especially “Equally free”.

  • Terry Lawrence

    Very well reasoned and thoughtful analysis, Dimitri. Thank you.

    I can’t believe how much you manage to accomplish given your schedule. Just reading through a document like that and making notes is very time consuming, never mind isolating and responding to the key sections. This type of legislation is inevitably subject to abuse, particularly as you point out given that the commissionaires will almost certainly be political hacks for one or another party, interpreting any criticism of the people or party who appointed them as “hate speech”.

    As you say, the real aim of the legislation is “shadow ban” most of the free exchange of information from social media. Right now I get a lot of information from “X”, aka Twitter, that would no doubt disappear. “We can’t show all that destruction of schools and hospitals because it could encourage someone to hate the perpetrators”. People don’t get angry or concerned about things they are unaware of, be it crimes or natural events. Out of sight, out of mind is the intent here. That is why Julian Assange is in prison: not for committing crimes but for exposing them.

    This legislation is about keeping criminals out of the spotlight under the guise of protecting children.

  • David Gutnick

    Mr. Lascaris you have have done an excellent job of pointing out the problems with Bill- 63.
    You have put your lawyer skills to good use, your understanding of the bill enlightening. It is terrific.

    One awaits a similar critical analysis of the role of censorship and the importance of building democracy in Putin’s Russia.

    It would not of course be legally publishable in Russia; if you were there and did indeed attempt to distribute such an analysis you would find yourself in jail for years.

    • Rahul Majumdar

      You’re back? Great – perhaps you can enlighten us on the role of the U.S. propaganda in extending an unwinnable war, and refusing a diplomatic solution to the extended Ukrainian crisis (2014-PRESENT)?

  • Rahul Majumdar

    You’re back? Great – perhaps you can enlighten us on the role of the U.S. propaganda in extending an unwinnable war, and refusing a diplomatic solution to the extended Ukrainian crisis (2014-PRESENT)?

  • David Gutnick

    Mr. Majumdar please limit your comments to the subject at hand.

    • Rahul Majumdar

      Mr. Gutnick, you were banned from this blog just a few weeks ago for bad netiquette – including incessant personal attacks on the administrator. Hardly your place to call out anyone. Now, Mr. Lascaris’ critique of Bill C-63 is insightful and thought-provoking. So, given that you appear to have been given another chance, how about an end to the snide back-handed “compliments”?

      P.S. You drifted from the subject at hand, somewhat. I merely offered you (again) a chance to explain yourself.

  • Chris Cook

    I wonder if under C-63 posts recruiting Canadians to serve in Israel’s military, where acts of extreme violence amounting to terrorism are, as we’ve witnessed over many years, daily occurrences might become prosecutable?

  • David Gutnick

    Again Mr Majumdar the issue I referred to was that the excellent critic by Mr Lascaris of a government mishandling a situation and thwarting democracy.
    I simply mentioned that this kind of excellent critic would be illegal in Russia and that the author and anyone supporting it would be incarcerated. Mr Lascaris was in fact calling on the Trudeau government to be more democratic, something that needs to be applauded.
    This is a good, we Canadians must be vocal when our governments do wrong and applaud when they do right. We are free to do this.
    In Putin’s Russia such freedom is impossible. In fact Canadian Dimension magazine, which Mr. Lascaris occasionally contributes to, recently published an article and a petition asking readers to offer support for a Russian intellectual jailed for criticizing government policies.
    I was simply applauding Mr Lascaris for his acknowledging that Canadians can freely criticize without worrying about being jailed, freely demand more democracy while Russians cannot.
    Clearly this is wrong and as we see has vast consequences.
    I don’t see why this causes you so much angst and why you – unlike Mr Lascaris- refuse such truth.

    • Rahul Majumdar

      Mr. Gutnick, again, with respect, you aren’t covering yourself with glory in your return to this website. Your reference to the Russian government’s approach to freedom of expression, even if true, is similar to what governments in the Collective West have been doing, and continue to do: increasingly rigid censorship of views not aligned with the state; growing reliance on mass surveillance techniques (including warrantless spying in the U.S.A.). The Government of Canada is merely singing from the same hymn book, stirring up a neo-McCarthyite hysteria within the Canadian populace.

      For years, Julian Assange exposed U.S. government illegality, and folks like yourself in MSM remained mostly silent as he was apprehended, prosecuted, and likely tortured in prison. The late Gonzalo Lira, at a different level, is an example of how the current Ukrainian government handles dissent. Not a good look.

      So, do two wrongs make a right? No, not in Russia, not in Ukraine, and certainly not in Canada. I’ll reserve final judgment as Mr. Lascaris pursues topics like Bill C-63 and expresses views that challenge government narratives that are unapologetically spouted to Canadians – and promoted by useful idiots as the gospel truth…

  • David Gutnick

    I will let readers decide if Mr Mujamber is correct his belief that Canadians ate subject to the same authoritarian censorship as we see in Russia.
    Is Canadian law perfect? Nope.
    Are all Canadians equal when it comes to access to media etc? Nope.
    Are Canadian prisions filling with folks who disagree with the government?
    Folks like say…Dimitri Lascaris and Rahul Mujamdar and myself?
    The proof is this very exchange, the proof is the existence of Mr Lascaris’s blog site.

    Why continue debating as obviously Mr Mujumdar lives in a different reality than the rest of us, including of course Mr Lascaris who – rightly – uses his legal education to fight for more and better democracy.

    As for Rahul…well …turns out he’s the one who now disagrees with Dimitri, go figure.

    • Rahul Majumdar

      It seems that your return from the penalty box includes more false, misleading narratives and deliberate misdirection with little, if anything related to the actual post. Not to mention misspellings (again) of my name – not too cool for whatever credibility you wish to claim.

      Tell me, did you actually read Mr. Lascaris’ piece? Did he, or I for that matter, discuss political prisoners in Canada, the U.S., Russia, or elsewhere? This article argues that under the guise of protecting children from online harm (a worthy goal), C-63 is anti-democratic legislation, threatening free speech via “a complex scheme of aggressive, backdoor censorship” – unprecedented in Canadian history. Quite in line with the U.S. government’s current censorship scheme, which includes co-opting social media giants like Google and Facebook to do its bidding, or risk being banned like TikTok.

      You seem to believe that in spite of the Government of Canada’s latest anti-freedom kick, we should fall to our knees and be grateful for whatever rights we enjoy. That’s a very top-down, elitist view of constitutional rights, which, after all, belong to the people. Citizens have to be vigilant when it comes to democracy, or else the democracy evaporates. Surely you knew?

      Mr. Lascaris’ criticism of C-63 becoming law is sharp and justified; i.e.
      – Unelected government appointees will police our speech;
      – Overly broad and ambiguous definition of “harmful content”;
      – The Act’s Draconian penalties incentivize social media providers to err on the side of

      REMINDER – this is Canadian, not Russian, legislation in the works.

      Mr. Gutnick (hope I spelled your name correctly), you’re a funny person – and I sincerely hope that pretending to be Mr. Lascaris’ best friend at my expense helps you avoid yet another misconduct and match penalty. Deep down, though, we all know that a leopard doesn’t change its spots…

  • David Gutnick

    Rahul, what Mr Lascaris says about the problems with the Canadian legislation is excellent.

    He is trying to make Canadian – yes capitalist- democracy better, to increase our freedom to criticize without consequences, to decrease the ability of government and business to restrict our freedoms.

    I was simply pointing out that the e opposite is taking place now in Putin’s Russia, that critics are silenced, or jailed or have fled. Read Meduza, reports by experienced Russian journalists who now have to report from outside the country.

    More democracy and freedom of speech is good,
    Less democracy and restrictions on speech are bad.

    This is all I have been saying. Mr Majumdhar I have no idea – in all seriousness – why you disagree with Mr Lascaris and me – and others who have contributed to this comments section?

    Yes I totally disagree with Mr Lascaris on his support of Putin as he continues his war on Ukrainian civilians.

    But that does not prevent me from appreciating his excellent analysis of a bad Canadian law. Mr Lascaris is trained to analyse Canadian law. That is a field where his expertise lies.

    What this happened to do with leopards I have no clue.

    • Rahul Majumdar

      Your obsfucation knows no bounds. As does your personal desire to censor Mr. Lascaris. For the record, “capitalist” democracy doesn’t exist.

      M A J U M D A R

      Spell it 100 times on the blackboard and report back to class…

  • David Gutnick

    Sorry for misspelling your name, that was rude of me, I apologize.

    As for capitalist democracy, I hate it.
    Many millions of us hate it. We want better.

    But authoritarianism leaning to various fascisms as one finds in Russia, North Korea, Belarusia, China et al is worse.

    You Mr Majumdar, me and Mr Lascaris and those millions of others would be in jail or worse for criticizing the governments should we live in those countries.

    We are free…to write, to speak and to organize.
    We vote.
    Our governments change.
    Not in the ways we want but that is our job…to work towards better change, to build better parties.

    You may not think capitalist democracy exists.
    Call it what you want.

    But it is better than the alternative.

    And that is precisely what Mr Lascaris has been proving in every blog, freely publishing his punishing critics of capitalist governments with no worry of jail or death.

  • Rahul Majumdar

    Mr. Gutnick, are you for or against Bill C-63? That’s the issue of this blog post. Instead, you’ve attempted to turn it into a conflated “yeah, but Russia” discussion. Do you recognize that this bill takes Canada further down the path towards authoritarianism – more rigid censorship, more surveillance, and a higher risk for the denial of fundamental freedoms. The type you allegedly decry in one country, but not others (e.g. Ukraine).

    Your “capitalist democracy” is in effect neoliberalism, well known for being fascism’s willing hand maiden. We have the period between the two world wars to learn about how it works. We also have loud echoes of neoliberalism leading to fascism in the U.S. today, which is after all the fusion of state and corporate power at the expense of the working class (actually, even the middle class). I recommend reading Mr. Lascaris’ Real News Network colleague Chris Hedges if you don’t believe me.

    Moral of the story: instead of the “Russia, Russia, Russia” mantra, why not look at how civil liberties and dissent are increasingly being thwarted in Canada? As for our FPTP, anti-democratic electoral system, what’s so special about two-party oligopolies in Canada, the US and the UK? That’s an extremely low bar you have for democracy if you think we should be kissing the soil in gratitude…

  • David Gutnick

    Mr Majumdar,
    I applaud Mr Lascaris’s take on Bill C -63.
    You seem to agree. Good.
    Many Canadians from all walks of life and from right to left ageee it should be dumped.

    You don’t want to admit – bizarre as this is to those of us who believe in freedom of the press etc – that Russia is an authorization and imperialist state that is far behind Canada when it comes to democracy.
    Yup neoliberal capitalism is better than authoritarianism, better than fascism.

    Proof? You are free to criticize the government
    In Canada, in Russia or China you would be in jail.

    No problem, you’re labelled as someone who lives here but would rather be restricted there, proudly wear your views, good luck finding comrades.

    Note that Me Lascaris has done an excellent job above of explaining why press freedoms in Canada are crucial to maintaining democracy.

    He uses his legal training to criticize restrictions on that freedom of speech in Canada, and calls out those who are attempting to restrict it.

    He rightly says that to restrict press freedoms is wrong, bad for citizens as it leads – as he points out in tweets – to authoritarianism, perhaps to fascism.

    Logically of course Mr Lascaris – and you- would be upset with all restrictions of freedom no matter where they occur.

    Well, right now Russia is restricting the freedom of citizens as it continues a war on Ukrainians. Protesters are jailed. Freedom of the press is nonexistent.

    According to Mr Lascaris – if the equivalent restrictions were put in place in Canada -Canada would be a fascist state.

    So simply follow the logic: freedom of expression NO MATTER WHERE IT HAPPENS IS WRING.

    In Canada
    In Ukraine.
    In Russia.

    That’s it.

    • Rahul Majumdar

      Mr. Gutnick,

      According to Prison Brief at, as of July 26, 2023, the incarceration rates per 100,000 inhabitants:

      United States: 531; Russia: 300; Ukraine:123; Canada: 85

      Total counts:

      United States: 1,767,200; Russia: 433,006; Ukraine: 48,038; Canada: 32,261

      Based on this, Canada compares quite favourably to Russia, as it should. Is this data relevant to the C-63 debate? Only insofar as demonstrating what could happen to Canadian society if such proposals become the law of the land. Unfortunately, we in Canada seem to be following the route of the increasingly authoritarian and imperialist empire south of the 49th parallel. Note the U.S. numbers above.

      So don’t flatter yourself – legacy media both public and private – are reeling in large part because of a credibility deficit in the narratives they’re delivering to us poor plebes day in and day out. Which is why independent thinkers like Mr. Lascaris are so reviled by MSM lifers as yourself.

      However, we occasionally bear witness to grudging mea culpas from MSM, even U.S. government mouthpieces like Foreign Affairs, who published a piece on April 16th entitled, “The Talks that Could Have Ended the War in Ukraine”.

      Professor Glenn Diesen of the University of South-Eastern Norway correctly admonishes the Western media for hiding details of diplomatic efforts to end the Ukrainian conflict as early as February 25, 2022 – the day after Russia’s military operations/invasion began.
      You can find Professor Diesen on X (Twitter).

      Contrary to FA’s assertions, the Western media (CBC included) refused to report on verifiable facts and smeared anyone who discussed it as “Putin Puppets” and “propagandists”. Sound familiar?
      BTW, we don’t hear about Ukraine’s anti-war campaign. I wonder why.

      So, if you are going to criticize Russia for a lack of press freedom, as accurate a criticism as that may be, you have no choice but to admonish Western media for suppressing critical information about the nature and circumstances surrounding this U.S.-NATO proxy war.

      Not to do so puts you on the side of propagandist talking heads and media shills pushing this war, not people like Mr. Lascaris who put their money where their mouth is when it comes to press freedoms, civil liberties, and genuine opposition to war.

      That’s it. That’s all…

  • David Gutnick

    We want a more democratic Canada. That is good. Better media.
    The cbc is not perfect. Far from it.make it better.

    But the cbc is far better than authoritarian media in Russia. Here we have critical media, all kinds of it including this blog.
    Real debate can happen without worries of jail.

    I don’t understand your refusal to critique Russia.

    As for the war. Imperialist authoritarian Russia with its own military industrial capitalism invaded Ukraine.

    It is killing civilians.

    All humanists across the world want to put a stop to imperialist capitalist invasions.

    This was one by Russia.!if it was by The USA or Sweden or …Ukraine it would also be opposed.
    Sovereign rights are sacrosanct.

    Anyway we in the left will never agree with you and your agreeing with the far right supporters of Putin like Trump, LePen, Orban etc. We shall fight you every step of the way.

    Over and out.

    • Rahul Majumdar

      Mr. Gutnick, I would have thought that a CBC-lifer would give more of a full-throated defence of the Mother Corp. and the $1.2 billion that it receives annually from the Government of Canada. Instead, you come back, time and time again, serving as cheerleader for one form of imperialism over another – not to mention the wilful destruction of Ukraine under the guise of freedom and justice. Humanism? Leftism? Don’t make me laugh.

      As to whether CBC was or is better than RT America, I don’t really have the opportunity to judge anymore – the latter shut down its U.S. operations in 2022…

      You just don’t seem to get it – the existence of independent media channels in the Western World from the likes of Mr. Lascaris, Glenn Greenwald, Chris Hedges, Lee Fang, Aaron Mate, Max Blumenthal, et al. stems directly from the failure of MSM to champion real debate, demonstrate critical thinking in its journalism, and speak truth to power. Basically, if you want a career in a neoliberal media conglomerate and/or publicly-funded broadcasters like the CBC today, especially in News and Current Affairs, you must become a wilful stooge/stenographer/shill to the ruling elite.

      Aspiring journalists in the Collective West who counter Establishment narratives today won’t go to jail for their thoughts – not yet anyway, though C-63 and equivalent legislation in the U.S. makes it much more likely in the future. However, they are constantly ostracized, blackballed, and ridiculed by various State players.

      I’m afraid your fake outrage and pandering doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. I’ve demonstrated this to you in the past, and will do so again and again to oppose fake MSM news stories like those about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq from the New York Times – the Gray Lady itself, and others echoed incessantly to continue the drumbeats of war in Ukraine and its far-right/extremist/Nazi elements.

      Fight? You fight? Doesn’t seem that it’s in you. You don’t speak out against Julian Assange’s torture, yet you support fake news in the West.

      Increasingly and sadly, it appears that the only way to get to the truth is to seek it out yourself. In that search, I cannot and will not be intimidated into silence…

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